The Utopian Communities of Brook Farm and Oneida in Early 19th Century America.

Essay by nghs22University, Bachelor'sA+, February 2006

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George Ripley, a Harvard graduate and Unitarian minister, started a transcendentalist experiment known as Brook Farm, which lasted from 1841 to 1848. A one hundred and seventy five acre farm owed by Charles and Maria Ellis in West Roxbury, Massachusetts was the location for the community. Brook Farm was set up as a joint-stock company and 24 stocks were issued at $500 a piece. Each share was secured against the assets of the company and the purchase of the stock included voting rights to the newly formed community and an entitlement for one child to receive an education in the projected educational facilities. Ripley, who was the author of a principal transcendental journal and based Brook Farm on the ideas of socialist Charles Fourier, sought to create a community that combined the ideals of radical social reform with individual self-reliance. Ripley's goals coincided with all transcendentalists had been looking for: individual freedom and humane relationships.

Brook Farm was set up to rely on agriculture, whereas the more successful utopia's like Oneida were centered on textiles and furniture. This idea proved to be unsuccessful since members were not knowledgeable on farming and the ground was too sandy to produce good crops. Brook Farm was successful in its attempts to intertwine learning into everyday community living. They set up schools ranging from elementary to college education and proved to be profitable for the community. Notable members and visitors included Nathaniel Hawthorne, John S. Dwight, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Margaret Fuller. Over time, Ripley believed that the ideals of Fourierism needed to become a larger part of Brook Farm; however, these thoughts were unpopular, causing numerous members to leave the community. This, along with the severe financial crisis caused by the burning of the community's costly "Phalanstery" and an outbreak of smallpox,